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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Dream of The Last Samurai


Starring (voice): Daisuke Namikawa, Jin Horikawa, Jin Yamanoi and Kousei Hirota
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 04 July 2011

Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645) has become a semi mythical historical character, one which is deeply ingrained in Japanese culture. Known for writing The Book of Five Rings which sought to bring enlightenment during a time of war and founder of a particular two sword technique, much of his life has disappeared behind myth and legend.

Musashi: The Dream of The Last Samurai (2009 - 1 hr, 12 min, 03 sec) is a curious beast, being an anime documentary, which tries to remove the man from his myth. The film was written by Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell) and directed by Mizuho Nishikubo (Otogi Zoshi).

In an attempt to engage an audience, who may already feel that they know everything they might want to about Musashi, the creators of the documentary have taken the decision to present the information in a semi-comic way with an animated narrator.

There is no coherent animation style through the film as it mixes live backgrounds, paintings and animated fights to tell the story. I knew little about the character, apart from his role as a basis for many Samurai series and was concerned that a subject so Japanese centric would have little to offer a westerner, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

As it turns out the mixture of styles presented in light information-rich fashion makes Musashi a fascinating documentary, although those expecting an animated Samurai movie are likely to walk away disappointed.

The creators of the film make several stylistic choices to make sure that a non-European audience will find an access point to the subject matter, including the use of western classical music and cross referencing martial developments in Japan with those in Europe.

The English audio dub has been created especially for the documentary, a task made a little easier as there is only a single narrator, the 3D CGI professor.

The DVD gets a very clean 2.35:1 transfer with audio options for either an English or Japanese 5.1 audio track, both with subtitles.

For extras you get the original theatrical trailer (1 min, 19 sec) and the more substantial The Making of Musashi (57 min, 25 sec) which is almost as long as the film itself. It is a pretty in-depth look at the making of the film.

Anime as documentary is an interesting idea and the end result presented a nice balance of comedy, action and information. So long as you not expecting a Samurai film, as such, there is much here to recommend.


Charles Packer

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